Between A Rock And A Prog Place: URIAH HEEP’s MICK BOX – “Quite Lengthy Songs…It’s Something We’ve Always Done”
November 29, 2022, 2 months ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords' monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
In this month’s column, we speak to Uriah Heep’s Mick Box about his band’s forthcoming album, Chaos & Colour (which drops January 27, 2023, and can be pre-ordered). Additionally, he was up for discussing prog and the death of former Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake.
Do you consider Uriah Heep a prog band?
“I think we’ve always dipped out toe in that water, most definitely. If you go back to the first album [1970’s ...Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble], ‘Wake Up (Set Your Sights)’ is very proggy. Salisbury has a 20-minute song [the title track] with a 24-piece brass and woodwind section. So, that was very progressive. And we tend to keep longer songs on every album – so that the album has got a real ‘journey’ to it. We don’t just keep them all snappy. ‘Save Me Tonight’ is very snappy, but if you listen to ‘One Nation, One Sun,’ ‘Freedom to Be Free’ is another progressive song on the new album. And on the previous album, Living the Dream, we had ‘Rocks in the Road.’ Quite lengthy songs…it’s something we’ve always done.”
Do you agree that Uriah Heep helped trailblaze ‘prog metal’?
“Songs like ‘Gypsy’ for instance on our first album, people are saying to me – it’s not anything I say - 'That inspired that whole genre of metal.' Because it’s very, very heavy. So, maybe it does. With our vocals, we treat harmony almost as another instrument. And the lyrical content we’ve had with the fantasy lyrics sort of captured everyone’s imagination – with Demons and Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday – some people jumped on that bandwagon and took it further. So yeah, it’s all good.” [Laughs]
Which Uriah Heep tunes are the most challenging to play?
“Challenging? None of them! I’ve been playing them for years and the new stuff is a natural progression – I wouldn’t say they were challenging at all. I don’t look at it like that. I think you have to have faith in what you’re doing, because it’s one thing playing a song and it’s another thing in really communicating and delivering that song – in a way that communicates with the audience.”
How did Lee Kerslake’s passing in 2020 affect you, and how would you like him to be remembered?
“Remembered as one of the great rock drummers in that genre. Apart from us, he did fantastic stuff for Ozzy that people love. He was just a powerhouse – up there with John Bonham. He only had one bass drum, and now everybody has double bass drums or double pedals – and he was doing it all with just one foot. He was amazing. But losing him was a terrible thing, because not only were we musicians in the same band, we were like brothers. We really were great mates. It’s a terrible time, because I’m actually the ‘last man standing,’ which is a great thing to say and an awful thing to say in the same breath. It was terrible because we lost Lee, but Lee had a five-year battle with cancer, so it was a long battle – we knew he was ill all the time. And just after that we lost Ken Hensley – who died very quickly – and then John Lawton. It was almost like being battered left and right – to try and come through this all. I was numb for weeks and weeks. Then I thought to myself, ‘Let’s keep flying the flag. Let’s keep all that great music they left behind on this mother earth, and give everyone access to it – all the new kids and all the great music they left to inspire other people’.”
Is it hard to believe that Chaos & Colour is the band’s 25th studio album overall?
“No. [Laughs] I’m surprised the band is still here and we’re still doing it, but we’re on the road now – I’m talking to you from Scandinavia, and we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary tour. So, it’s no surprise, and hopefully, there will be more to follow – because that’s what we do.”
What was the inspiration behind the track ‘Save Me Tonight’?
“That was written by our bass player, Dave Rimmer, and Jeff Scott Soto. ‘Save Me Tonight’ is a reflection of what we’ve lived through the last couple of years.”
What are the touring plans in support of the album?
“We’re speaking with our manager right now, because the release date for the album is the 27th of January. So, once we finish this 50th anniversary tour – which ends on the 14th of December, we’re going to have a break for Christmas, and then we’re looking at putting tours together – coming out to America and hopefully doing a whole world tour again. Normally we’d tour in – pre-Covid, at least – 62 countries. We DO put a world tour together.”
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Prog legends Jethro Tull have finished work on their 23rd studio album overall, and is due for release sometime in the spring of 2023. Korpiklaani has unveiled an English version of their latest single, “Crystallomancy,” which is an anti-war song (and addresses the Russian invasion of Ukraine) – as well as a lyric video for the tune.
Slovenian prog metallists Seventh Station released their latest album last month, Heal the Unhealed, and you can hear the entire album by clicking right here. Vancouver’s Opus Arise “brings together classical strings and metal rhythms to create luscious soundscapes to dissonant chaos.” Check out the video for their song (from their new album, The Network) below, and judge for yourself. Is Melbourne’s Circles prog, metal, or alternative? Perhaps a bit of each, as evidenced by their song/video, “Sleepwalking,” off their recently-released EP, ‘Sleepwalking,’ The Stories We Are Afraid Of: Vol.1.
Described as a “Philadelphia-based instrumental/progressive post-metal duo,” Sarattma has issued a video for their nearly nine-minute track, “Socotra,” which can be viewed below. The Mark Boals-led Ring of Fire issued their fifth studio effort overall last month, Gravity, for which a video clip for the tune “Storm Of The Pawns” has been presented.
Hedvig Mollestad & Trondheim Jazz Orchestra released their sprawling double album Maternity Beat last month, and the near ten-minute epic ‘Maternity Suite’ is indeed quite proggy. The violin-heavy Canadian prog metal quintet, Cydemind, issued their sophomore LP last month, The Descent, and a video has surfaced for their ditty ‘Hoax.’ And lastly, Joe Deninzon and Stratospheerius have launched an IndieGoGo campaign to fund two new releases – a live box set and a new studio album (both due out in 2023).
December 2022 New Albums
Amberian Dawn- Take a Chance: A Metal Tribute to ABBA
Collage- Over And Out
After Lapse- Face The Storm
Kansas- Another Fork In The Road: 50 Years Of Kansas [3-CD]
Rob Moratti- Epical
Puscifer- Existential Reckoning: Rewired
The Wring- Spectra
While we’re on the topic of Uriah Heep, the band is often credited for such prog metal tour de forces as “Sunrise,” “Bird Of Prey,” and the aforementioned “Wake Up (Set Your Sights).” But it’s easy to forget that for a brief spell in the early ‘80s, they were also an ‘MTV band’ – did you forget about the clip for “That’s the Way That It Is” (which featured a just-out-of-Ozzy Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake)? If so, you should really rediscover this awesome/amazing video below…